Gerry van der Walt - Wildlife Photography - Africa

A Quick Wildlife Photography Reality Check

Gerry van der Walt All Authors, Gerry 3 Comments

Gerry van der Walt - Wildlife Photography - Africa

Do you ever feel like you are running out of images?  Like you have created your last great image.  Like you just cannot create anything new and interesting and that inspiration is lacking?

I’m sure must have felt like this at some stage but you know what?  It’s natural.  It’s a normal part of any creative process to hit a wall and feel like nothing works and that you’ll never create another good images ever again.

After a very busy year of travel I kinda feel like this.  I feel like I’m running out of  images so I am writing this for myself and hope that in some way it resonates with you at some level.

The most important thing is not to worry and freak out because panic and stress is not conducive to creativity.  Forcing things and trying harder will more than likely only push you further away from that beautiful creative cadence where images just work and you see potential images in every scene.

At first it’s a terrible feeling.  You see something, create an image, look at the image and it just feels flat.

You try again, try something different and… nothing.

It’s at this point that we panic and start feeling frustrated.  We push harder, we try harder but it just… won’t… work.

Time for a reality check.

Why do we do what we do?  Why do we photograph wildlife?  Is it really that important to create new, fresh and unique images all the time?  Sure, it might feel like it because your Facebook followers can’t wait for your new images and you need to sell new prints but it just isn’t the case.

At base level we photograph wildlife because we enjoy being out in the field.  We enjoy the experience of documenting nature and capturing the wonderful visuals we see out in nature.  We photograph wildlife for ourselves as it gives us a different way to interpret and enjoy our natural heritage.  We create wildlife images because we enjoy the process not because the process defines us.  Once you wrap your head around that you will have taken the first step to getting back your groove.

Think back of when you first started heading out wth your camera to photograph wildlife.  Did you worry about panning?  Creating multiple exposures in camera?  Did you worry about creating frames in which the visual narrative is so strong it would make even Sir David Attenborough shed a tear?

No.

When you first started this amazing journey you were simply worried about the experience of wildlife photography.  You were happy to capture a good solid portrait of a lion even though there might have been some grass in the bottom corner or a simple scene of an elephant walking away from you.  You didn’t worry about creating gold with every frame and the last thing on your mind was what people online were going to say about your images.  It still shouldn’t be but that’s a discussion for another time.

Back to basics always works and this is the approach I have take during the last few weeks.  You see, my own photography is not my focus when I am out in the field and does not determine my enjoyment of doing what I do.  I teach, inspire and help people to create better images and that process is something I am good at and truly enjoy.  I can do this without being creative in my own photography and know that I can add value to my guests and clients by helping them create better images and becoming better photographers.

That said, in between this I do have the opportunity to do a little bit of my own photography and during the last few weeks I have consciously gone back to a back to basics approach.  Normally I would look at a scene and have many creative options in mind against which I could execute and create different, interesting images but this visualisation has been missing the last while.  Maybe it’s because it’s been a long year and I’ve been behind a camera for quite some time or maybe it’s just the normal ebb and flow of creativity and it’s influence on our craft.  Either way, I am not stressed and look forward to rolling with the creative punches.  It’s the journey that matters.

During the last few weeks I have gone back to photographing wildlife like I did when I started.  Some might call it documentary, others might call it proof shots but for me it’s tapping into the base level reason I picked up a camera in the first place.

I wanted to point at something.

I wanted to say “look at this” regardless of how special of creative it is and this is still the case.

In between photographing wildlife without trying to be creative or trying different things my photographic voice started waking up and started whispering “what if” and like I’ve said before, this is one of the best questions you can ask yourself with a camera in hand as it leads to playing with your camera.  Experimenting with your photography.  Having fun.

You cannot force creativity and trying to do so will only lead to disappointed and frustration.  You need to stir the paint and find the reason why you are doing what you do and then let the process evolve naturally.  Creativity will always have highs and lows and if you recognise and respect the lows and work through it your highs will be so much sweeter.

Don’t let the need to create new, unique and different images drive your photographic journey.

Stick to the basics, enjoy the process, play, find your cadence, have fun, make mistakes, keep it simple and the rest will take care of itself.

Until next time.

Gerry

About the Author

Gerry van der Walt

I am a private and specialist photographic safari guide, public speaker, co founder of Wild Eye and wildlife photographer. Visit my website at www.gerryvanderwalt.com or follow my journey on Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and Periscope.  I look forward to changing the way you see the world! Have you checked out The Wildlife Photography Podcast?

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Comments 3

  1. Pingback: A Quick Wildlife Photography Reality Check - Africa Freak

  2. Tat Taylor

    Hi Gerry,
    With you on this. First and foremost it’s “being out there” that matters. My camera over the shoulder ready for capturing that wildlife moment, a sighting, an experience, not for producing an award winning image, a work of art, to sell or for anyone else. It’s for me, the wildlife/nature me. It’s a natural, extension of my senses, like binoculars. And sometimes I get lucky photographically.

    O f course the thoughts go through my head. How did X get that shot? How can I use that idea, technique, etc? How can i get that sort of shot? Then the “photographer me” kicks in,. There’s more planning and preparation, thinking about the technology. It’s more cerebral, it’s harder. Usually, but not always enjoyable, frequently frustrating and sometimes amazing when it all comes together ( well nearly because nothings ever perfect in this approach)

  3. Pingback: Going Mirrorless on Safari - Wild Eye

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